Sunday, December 16, 2007

1400's Cotehardie

This is the first part of an extended project to make an outfit from the 1400's for myself. I'd like to have it finished by spring so I can go to a Renn Faire sometime before I die.

I've always intended to get to Sterling, but it never seems to happen. One year I got back too late and my friends had already left, another it was hailing and not safe to drive, as I recall that was the day we actually drove through a tornado. It was a small one, and only took down a few barns... left a lot of those half circle marks on the sides of buildings... one with the side ripped off and the bottles still on the shelves. The car coming the other way was blown into the ditch; no one but the car was injured, somehow we stayed on the road.

Then I was sick, then broke the year after that. Then there were a few years where the event was canceled and I was busy working for the next several summers. Perhaps the gods are conspiring against me and I'll never get there. I know from a reenactor's point of view, it's not all that, but I'd still like to go. Perhaps I'll go to Pensic Wars as a spectator next summer, there's no pretense of accuracy from what I understand (which, admittedly is not much as I've heard little about it and have never been to it).

The painting above is Alesso Baldvinetti's "Madonna and Child" 1460. This is one of the inspiration and reference cotehardies for the one I'm making now. The sleeves are a very close copy, including the gold silk edging and the single button closure. The neckline will be trimmed with gold silk and the dress is about as full as the one pictured here. The main difference is that it is of blue linen instead of red paint.

I am aware of the whole "never use religious icons" as an historic reference, but there are plenty of other references to back my use of these elements (sleeve design and fabric edging). At first I was hesitant to use the gold silk, because I know that icon painters used it as a symbol for divinity (the whole 'gold never tarnishes' thing), and gold was not commonly worn on clothing of regular people for obvious reasons. But... I couldn't resist and I had just enough silk left over from my wedding to use as trim. I'd originally planned on using white wool, which would have been more historically correct, but that got taken to Mom's house and I wanted to finish the sleeves right away. I may replace the gold silk at some point if I make a habit of attending Renaissance events.

The chemise (shift) is done, though I may re-make it to have smaller sleeves as these are HUGE. It's at my friend Carol's studio right now waiting for me to be Isabella and the pot of Oregano, oh, I mean Basil... but it's really a big pot of oregano. If you are in the mood for truly horrid poetry check out John Keats' "Isabella and the pot of basil." I shudder at the thought of high-schoolers everywhere being forced to read that extended bit of drivel. But the paintings are quite good and more than make up for one thousand poorly chosen words.

This first test gown (made of the ugliest brown mystery fabric in the world... it used to be curtains in my first apartment) was made from the Greenland bog dress pattern that I got from here: (This is a wonderful site and she lists sources with great information, and provides fantastic instructions).

After making the adjustments to my measurements, I had to make more adjustments so the garment actually fit me. It fits like a very nice glove and moves beautifully. The ugly brown thing has 4 gores, 2 in front and 2 in back. Apparently these gowns could have as many as 12 gores or as few as 2. The buttons may be plastic, but could be polished wood if you don't look too close. The openings at the front and cuffs are lined with brown wool.

The blue linen cotehardie has 2 gores, one in front one in back because I was running short of material. I had to re-adjust the sleeve pattern to make up for the lack of fabric. Again, this was a left-over from my wedding and I was working with bits and pieces. The end result was well worth the squeezing, and all I have left to do is hand stitch the neck edging and finish the hem at the bottom. I may go crazy and add a line of gold silk trim at the bottom, just to make it very iconic and destroy any historic accuracy what-so-ever.

Instead of a front opening I made a side lacing dress with a wide neckline that I can slip over my head. Of all the paintings I looked at only the right side of the gowns were laced, which confuses me a little as one would assume that you would want the dress to expand evenly over a baby-belly, and not be lopsided as you expanded and shrunk. Anyone who can provide me with more information on this mystery is more than welcome to comment.

I'm excited to have this cotehardie done. Once the snow stops trapping us in our homes I'll go out and get more blue thread to finish the hem and then I'll post some pictures.

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